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Lawrence Lessig Reviews The Social Network 223

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the hey-mark-ping-me dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Lawrence Lessig — author, Harvard law professor, co-founder of Creative Commons — reviews The Social Network in The New Republic. Although Lessig says the movie is an 'intelligent, beautiful, and compelling film,' he adds that as a story about Facebook, it is deeply, deeply flawed because the movie fails to even mention the real magic behind the Facebook story, and while everyone walking out out of the movie will think they understand the genius of the internet, almost none of them will have seen the real ethic of internet creativity that makes success stories like Facebook possible. 'Because the platform of the Internet is open and free, or in the language of the day, because it is a "neutral network," a billion Mark Zuckerbergs have the opportunity to invent for the platform,' writes Lessig. 'And that is tragedy because just at the moment when we celebrate the product of these two wonders — Zuckerberg and the Internet — working together, policymakers are conspiring ferociously with old world powers to remove the conditions for this success. As "network neutrality" gets bargained away — to add insult to injury, by an administration that was elected with the promise to defend it — the opportunities for the Zuckerbergs of tomorrow will shrink.' Lessig laments that the creators of the movie didn't understand the ethic of Internet creativity and thought that the real story was the invention of Facebook not the platform that made such democratic innovation possible. 'Zuckerberg is a rightful hero of our time,' concludes Lessig. 'As I looked around at the packed theater of teens and twenty-somethings, there was no doubt who was in the right, however geeky and clumsy and sad. That generation will judge this new world. If, that is, we allow that new world to continue to flourish.'"
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Lawrence Lessig Reviews The Social Network

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  • by Cornwallis (1188489) on Monday October 04, 2010 @10:03AM (#33784116)

    ...is that anyone can write apps that will suck the remaining privacy we have out of us and sell it to the highest bidder.

    • by shellster_dude (1261444) on Monday October 04, 2010 @10:08AM (#33784148)
      or is it that some idiots are going to use this free application and then bitch about the consequences?
      • by Svartalf (2997) on Monday October 04, 2010 @10:30AM (#33784404) Homepage

        Truly insightful. There really isn't anything such as a free lunch. There is always a price paid for it by someone, somewhere. Most people don't realize this because they've been made to believe there is such a thing- and that they don't have to pay anything in. There are things that are worth burning a bit of your privacy on to get something in return. Sadly, many people's thresholds for that sort of thing are kind-of low because they don't know just how valuable it really is.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Your response seems to conflate two entirely different phenomena, and these go to the very heart of what Lessig was addressing. I think the distinction is especially noteworthy because, to the average Internet user, both appear to be free in exactly the same way. And they're not.

          One, as you rightly point out, is that services such as Facebook have to be underwritten somehow. They're commercial ventures, pure and simple. So if they seem to be free, it's only because you haven't found the catch.

          The
    • by Jurily (900488)

      ...is that anyone can write apps that will suck the remaining privacy we have out of us and sell it to the highest bidder.

      Nobody wants to suck my privacy out of me :(

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Have you tried wearing this [fotosearch.com]?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2010 @10:03AM (#33784118)
    that he stole this idea from people that hired him to develop it?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bsDaemon (87307)

      Yeah, but at Harvard Business School, I think they call that a "Free Market Economy." He must have been doing some advanced reading before dropping out to pursue a rewarding career as a douche bag.

    • by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Monday October 04, 2010 @10:51AM (#33784658)
      Lessig touches on this:

      Did Zuckerberg breach his contract? Maybe, for which the damages are more like $650, not $65 million. Did he steal a trade secret? Absolutely not. Did he steal any other “property”? Absolutely not—the code for Facebook was his, and the “idea” of a social network is not a patent.

      and:

      In response to the twins’ lawsuit, [Zuckerberg] asks, does “a guy who makes a really good chair owe money to anyone who ever made a chair?”

      I don't know the particulars (if the code was part of a work for hire, then Zuckerberg would be guilty of copyright infringement for his subsequent use of it... but that doesn't appear to be what is alleged), but assuming Lessig's account of the facts is correct, then Zuckerberg didn't "steal" anything. At least, he didn't break any laws. He may have appropriated other's ideas without credit, but plagiarism itself isn't illegal.

      However I do disagree with Lessig's suggestion that we should admire Zuckerberg. It seems to me that, even if he stayed within the bounds of the law, he built-up Facebook by being mean, cut-throat, and ruthless. That makes him a bad person, regardless of the grand things he has was able to legally deploy with his tactics.

      • by Duradin (1261418)

        "he built-up Facebook by being mean, cut-throat, and ruthless."

        This is the ideal hero of the free market and its god, The Invisible Hand.

      • by gorzek (647352)

        I think a lot of people would trade being a good person for a massive pile of cash. A clear conscience and five bucks will buy you a cup of coffee.

        • Being a horribly evil person gets you laid. Being a good person doesn't even get you satisfying sex; girls are honestly freaked out by guys that seem to care too much. There's a line between being "sweet" and being "in love," and you'll see girls date the same guy for 3 years and talk about how awesome he is only to suddenly decide he's "really creepy and obsessive" when he starts "giving too much" or something. Too clingy. Whatever it is, suddenly you crossed the creep factor and the level of appropria

    • by omglolbah (731566)

      I thought that was the American Dream 2.0 ? :p

    • He stole it almost from multiple people. He got paid to make it (signed docs and all). And then he stole it from others. So he failed to deliver a product he stole.

      That and he is seriously a complete douchebag and has no feelings of pity or regret over his actions. You can read some of his logs. Hell the guy apparently used his powers of running facebook to break into individual accounts. Scary dude.
    • by rxan (1424721)
      I don't get this championing of Zuckerburg, either. For every product that makes it big there are a million other products that weren't as lucky. Just having the most popular product doesn't make you a hero.
  • The flaw is .... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2010 @10:05AM (#33784134)

    that there exist people that want to see the movie in the first place....

    • Narcissism (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Shivetya (243324)

      never under estimate how many went to that movie and "saw" bits of themselves in the various characters, trying to justify their behavior to themselves. From the beyond college student dialog to their dress and the speed it appears they act. Oh yeah, I can see where they found people to go see the film

      • Re:Narcissism (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Americano (920576) on Monday October 04, 2010 @10:18AM (#33784248)

        Since when is it "narcissism" to "see" bits of ourselves in characters we read about, or see in film?

        Audience identification with characters in artistic works is as old as the media those artistic works have been presented in. Those works with the most timeless, universal themes are generally considered to be some of the best, most durable & long-lasting works - in other words, the ones which MANY people can "see" bits of themselves in.

        Empathetic characters are nothing to be scared of or ashamed of. Do you really want films & books about nothing but outsized caricatures of humanity as characters, or filled with people who we are so utterly incapable of identifying with that they might as well be aliens from a civilization antithetical to our own? Because those types of stories might be fun one-trick ponies, but the thought of them doesn't hold much appeal for me.

        • Re:Narcissism (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Moridineas (213502) on Monday October 04, 2010 @10:26AM (#33784348) Journal

          Do you really want films & books about nothing but outsized caricatures of humanity as characters, or filled with people who we are so utterly incapable of identifying with that they might as well be aliens from a civilization antithetical to our own?

          We call that Atlas Shrugged.

          • by Americano (920576)

            And what's the general consensus on the quality of Atlas Shrugged around here again? :)

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Moridineas (213502)

              Oddly enough given my comment (what's life without some self deprectation?) I actually quite enjoyed some of Ayn Rand's work. Take out the 80-page soliloquy at the end of Atlas and I thought it was a pretty solid book.

              The characters are rather outsized and undersized though! Interestingly enough, I read that Rand had intended to include a priest character--a sympathetic character, somebody who was on the side of good, yet sided with the "looters" for misguided reasons. Rand apparently felt the character was

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Americano (920576)

                Sure, and Rand's goal with Atlas Shrugged was to portray 'romantically ideal' heroes and heroines... and I thought it was an all right story, though I could have done without being bludgeoned over the head with her philosophy quite so much - subtle she wasn't. You know you're supposed to hate Jim Taggart, Wesley Mouch, Orren Boyle, et. al. from the moment you meet them in the book, and you know you're supposed to see John Galt, Dagny, and Hank Rearden as heroic from the moment they're introduced. Francisc

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by bsDaemon (87307)

            how can you tell the difference between a library and a bathroom? the bathroom is where the ayn rand books are located.

    • by hex0D (1890162)
      Why? Because you don't like Facebook? I'm not going to see it because of Facebook, I'm going to go see it because it's by Sorkin. I hate sports, and never watch ESPN, but loved 'Sports Night' A good writer can make interesting entertaining stories out of subject matter you have, or thought you had, no interest in.

      Or maybe you just personally dislike someone involved with the film to the point that you wish anyone who doesn't shouldn't even exist. And that's the exact type of thinking I really wish d

  • Right.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by irid77 (1539905) on Monday October 04, 2010 @10:09AM (#33784158)

    Of course! Every movie having anything to do with the internet should be an op-ed piece supporting net neutrality. That'll work.

  • A trickster hero at best: One who stole fire from the gods, threw golden apples to distract Atalanta, hid under the bellies of sheep, and displayed Medusa's head a a present. There are some cultures who praise quick wit over morality. In the U.S., morality is praised over quick wit. He is not our hero. Let him go to Greece.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2010 @10:27AM (#33784352)

      "In the U.S., morality is praised over quick wit."

      You new here or something?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by schmidt349 (690948)

      It's ironic that you chose Prometheus as the dubious divinity because he's been adopted by our culture as the patron saint of progress. You'll find his image everywhere that human ingenuity is celebrated, from the famous statue in the Rockefeller Center to Ayn Rand's paean to Prometheus in Atlas Shrugged. As a god he celebrates the best part in all of us, the cleverness that separates us from the animals.

      In the U.S., morality is praised over quick wit.

      Nothing gets a Monday started like a great joke. Thanks

      • by idontgno (624372)

        FWIW, you're missing the fundamental core of Western moral hypocrisy. Borrowing from Hamlet, rigid blue-nosed "morality" is "...a custom More honor'd in the breach than the observance...".

        We praise public virtue to the heavens. We rant and rave when we see someone succeeding while flouting it. But in truth, "morality" is a trait we insist on in everyone else but ourselves. It's only cheating if the other guy is doing it.

    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      In the U.S., morality is praised over quick wit [citation needed]

      Actually, does Zuckerburg care whether he's praised or not? He can always stuff a few million $$$ in his ears to drown out the sound of the angry, wheezing nerd-mob.

  • I didn't RTFA, but the summary is a mess.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2010 @10:20AM (#33784272)

    Facebook may be the next Windows -- a dominant, proprietary platform on which everyone else's apps run. Add the absence of end-user control of the applications and data (including privacy), and it's antithetical to the free, open, and end-user controlled Internet on which it's built. How will the next Zuckerberg build his application? Not so easily, since he'll be dependent on the closed, proprietary systems and data of Facebook, doing only the things that they permit and only when, where, and how they want it.

    Mozilla helped save us from a closed, proprietary web browser (one reason Facebook could blossom). With that battle won and a proliferation of browsers and Microsoft adopting open standards, they are struggling a bit to find a mission. I wish they would turn to their attention to the next issue of the open Internet, a free and open social network.

    • by js3 (319268)

      Facebook may be the next Windows -- a dominant, proprietary platform on which everyone else's apps run. Add the absence of end-user control of the applications and data (including privacy), and it's antithetical to the free, open, and end-user controlled Internet on which it's built. How will the next Zuckerberg build his application? Not so easily, since he'll be dependent on the closed, proprietary systems and data of Facebook, doing only the things that they permit and only when, where, and how they want it.

      Mozilla helped save us from a closed, proprietary web browser (one reason Facebook could blossom). With that battle won and a proliferation of browsers and Microsoft adopting open standards, they are struggling a bit to find a mission. I wish they would turn to their attention to the next issue of the open Internet, a free and open social network.

      Ugh, they said the same thing about google and apple and they co-exist with windows just fine. Netscape used to be the only proprietary browser until IE came along (unless you liked lynx). I expect facebook to become yesterdays news in a couple of year when the next big thing comes rolling along.

    • by dominion (3153)

      I wish they would turn to their attention to the next issue of the open Internet, a free and open social network.

      Here you go:

      http://opensource.appleseedproject.org/ [appleseedproject.org]

  • Granted I havent paid much attention to this movie but what's the big deal about yet another rags to richers internet story? Bill Gates? The napster guy? Mark Cuban? Google founders? Many people have become billionaires from internet ideas.. what's so special about this one?

    • by bsDaemon (87307)

      You know Bill Gates was a trust fund baby from Ivy League, lawyer parents and grand parents and wasn't going to be poor even if MS didn't take off, right? His is more of a story of 1000-thread-count linen to most-expensive-silk-from-China.

    • by Thud457 (234763)
      Are you particularly dense, or something?

      This was a movie about the genius that made teh Facebook!
      It's got a guaranteed audience on n(facebook users), 99.9% of which are too shallow to have any problem with what a epitome of douchebaggery the main character is.

      This is the moneies in the bank, man!1!!
  • by hey (83763) on Monday October 04, 2010 @10:21AM (#33784280) Journal

    He used the open internet and tools to make a walled garden. Not exactly a triumph of openness.

    • by hex0D (1890162)
      yes it is. In the exact same way that free speech triumphs when people have the freedom to speak out against it, as well as for it. The openness is still out there for you to make a community pea patch or whatever the hell else you would like to do with it, you don't have to use his walled garden and it is in no way stopping you from constructing your own.

      For better or worse, people find the consistency of proprietary platforms preferable to the confusion that can come with open platforms. Part of 'ope

  • It's a movie. (Score:2, Informative)

    by jlf278 (1022347)
    Since when do entertainment and profitabilty make for a deeply flawed movie? Focusing on net neutrality and packet priority would have bored the audience and interfered with the arch of the story. Just because something is ethically (and socio-economically) compelling, does not make it good theater.
  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Monday October 04, 2010 @10:24AM (#33784316)

    Zuckenberg was portrayed as a "hero" ?

    When I left the movie, I had the impression that Zunkenberg was portrayed as a thieving, condescending, misogynistic, little twerp. He stole everybody else's ideas, idolized a child molesting drug abuser, and betrayed his best (only?) friend. His only redeeming value is that he was a talented programmer.

    Not my idea of a hero, but then, I don't idolize Bill Gates either.

    • by Nadaka (224565)

      Gates has gained a few redeeming qualities in his later years. Zuckerberg is still little more than a skillful, lucky douche bag.

    • That's the great thing about this movie as a work of art. The characters were complex and no one was a perfect hero or perfect villain. They were real people, real people with real personality issues and real quirks and real greed. I think that's the key thing here.

      Mark Zuckerberg - dick, computer geek, had some vision to make something cool
      Eric Parker - dick, computer geek, thinks he's awesome but when confronted he scampers like a scared mouse and then uses paranoid delusions to explain what went wrong

      • Mark Zuckerberg - dick, computer geek, had some vision to make something cool

        Did he have some great vision? Or did he steal the visions of other people, and then connive those people out of their fair share? What great original idea did mark have?

        I read some movie review that said Mark was characterized more like a marketing major than a comp. sci. major.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hellfire (86129)

          According to the movie, Mark was characterized as a comp sci guy who saw beyond what the Winklevoss twins had in mind. And just so it's understood, the Winklevoss's idea was no revolutionary idea nor was it original. The movie even mentioned Friendster and Myspace and someone (I forget who and how) basically asks how would this be better than those two. The Eric Parker character goes on to elaborate how Facebook "is cool." I think that's what the movie is trying to portray.

          I'm not agreeing with these po

      • Don't you mean Sean Parker? But everything else you said was spot-on.

        The movie didn't seem to be a hatchet-job on Zuckerberg as the media (and trailers) made it out to be. I mean the character certainly has flaws, but he was portrayed similarly to a tragic figure in a greek tragedy: he had good intentions, though insensitive and oblivious to others' feelings, and was easily manipulated by scoundrels like Parker. At the very least, the characterization of Zuckerberg is a realistic portrayal of many talente
    • by robson (60067)

      When I left the movie, I had the impression that Zunkenberg was portrayed as a thieving, condescending, misogynistic, little twerp. He stole everybody else's ideas, idolized a child molesting drug abuser, and betrayed his best (only?) friend.

      I agree, they went pretty easy on him.

  • by L3370 (1421413) on Monday October 04, 2010 @10:30AM (#33784400)
    It's a movie...based off a an actual event but injected with LOTS of fiction and creative juicy bits to make the story interesting and dramatic. The movie isn't flawed because it fails to mention the "magic behind the facebook story," as most people watching the movie don't give a shit about that stuff! It would be nonsense that distracts from the movie.

    The openness and magical qualities of the internet was not the plot of the story. The [fictional] movie was about friendship, betrayal, and the abrasive personality of Mark Zuckerberg. Rating the film down because it was lacking an explaination of the internet is stupid, and it seems more like an opportunity to talk about something Lessig cares about.

    It was an interesting movie btw. After watching it I went home and Google'd Sean Parker info because I didn't know he had a hand in facebook. I also wanted to find out whether he was as big a douchebag as they played him out to be on the movie.
    • by Animats (122034) on Monday October 04, 2010 @11:19AM (#33785000) Homepage

      It's a movie...based off a an actual event but injected with LOTS of fiction and creative juicy bits to make the story interesting and dramatic. The movie isn't flawed because it fails to mention the "magic behind the facebook story," as most people watching the movie don't give a shit about that stuff! It would be nonsense that distracts from the movie.

      Yes, it's Hollywood. Don't expect realism. For those of us here in Silicon Valley, the amazing thing was Zuckerman finding, on a low budget, a house in Palo Alto a few blocks from the Stanford campus, with a pool.

      There is, after all, plenty of "geek" stuff in the film. The sequence where Zuckerman writes screen scrapers to get all the Harvard house face books into his system even has valid Perl code shown on screen. Lessig has a point, though. It's getting harder to launch something like that as "the Internet" is divided into a series of walled gardens, run by Facebook, Comcast, Apple, and Google. It's not impossible. But there are more "gatekeepers" now.

      I looked at Zuckerman's page on Facebook to see if he liked the movie, but he hasn't posted anything yet.

    • by FoolishOwl (1698506) on Monday October 04, 2010 @11:31AM (#33785130) Journal

      I admire Lessig, appreciate his political arguments, and recommend his books to others frequently. However, I've got to say, this seems like an instance of Lessig using a topical event to talk about what he wants to talk about, which is almost completely unrelated to the initial topic.

      Also, I can't see the point of praising Zuckerberg so strongly. He designed a social media site that was slightly less crappy than the other competing social media sites that existed when he introduced it. Most of the work of promoting social media sites is done by their users; in the case of Facebook, there's also the constant spam from crappy games by the egregiously manipulative Zynga. There are lots of smart, hard-working, but unscrupulous and greedy entrepreneurs; Zuckerberg is simply luckier than most of them. I don't see how Zuckerberg deserves any praise.

      It seems to me it weakens Lessig's message to praise Zuckerberg.

  • Oh no! (Score:5, Funny)

    by sunking2 (521698) on Monday October 04, 2010 @10:37AM (#33784494)
    I just had a Jon Katz flashback! Does he have a new identity now? All the summary needed was a post columbine reference.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2010 @11:09AM (#33784898)

    Since about 1995, it's not a big deal to score 1600 on the SAT--a good fraction of 1% of test-takers manages this. In prior years, with different scoring adjustments in place, only a handful in a million would score so high.

    None of the programming Zuckerberg was portrayed as having done in the movie required great ability, except perhaps to do it while drunk. The programming required to produce facemash was minimal, however.

    The movie omits other Zuckerberg evil antics.
    http://www.businessinsider.com/mark-zuckerbergs-and-privacy-crimes-2010-3

  • Erm (Score:4, Interesting)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Monday October 04, 2010 @11:14AM (#33784940) Journal

    "...(they) thought that the real story was the invention of Facebook..."
    Perhaps the makers of the movie knew what their "real story" was, while some internet talking head (hey! I'm "internet famous!") is simply flogging his personal dead horse?

  • you can't put a price on cool. Damn I miss the .com days. So sick of business getting cheap.

  • by abigsmurf (919188) on Monday October 04, 2010 @12:01PM (#33785508)
    People don't want to see a hollywood take on the creation on how a student became mega rich and created a piece of software they use every day. They want to watch a 2 hour lecture on a subject they probably wouldn't care about even if they knew what it was about.

    I know I was angry when the Lord of the Ring movies didn't at all explain how Tolkien's orcs and elves were inspired by other stories and folk lore! Where was the explanation of how he created Elvish? These films were completely impossible to enjoy without all this background information that gives context on how it was possible for the books to have been written!
  • ...would be much better spent supporting Diaspora http://www.joindiaspora.com/ [joindiaspora.com]

    Seriously, every time there's a Facebook story on /. so many hours of potential productivity are lost to bitching. Why not use that time actively helping an alternative to what so many of you apparently despise? And if you don't care about or use social networks at all, rest assured that the millions who do by and large don't care about your sanctimonious complaints.

Let's organize this thing and take all the fun out of it.

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